Workplace Idioms Guide – Common Phrases Used in Everyday Business English

English is the global language of business. And, when it comes to actively participating in workplace conversations in English, understanding and being able to use common business expressions, known as idioms, is key. However, idioms are sometimes one of the last things non-native speakers become comfortable with and able to use.

Common English Language Idioms Used in Business Situations

As a helpful resource, we’ve created a list of idioms to help non-native English speakers become more comfortable with and capable of actively participating in workplace conversations.

“Cut corners”

Meaning:

To do something the easiest or quickest way.

In a sentence:

The project would have turned out better if the team hadn’t cut corners during the planning stage.

“Get the ball rolling”

Meaning:

To get started.

In a sentence: :

Let’s get the ball rolling on next year’s goals.

“Up to speed”

Meaning:

To be familiar with current information.

In a sentence:

Make sure you are up to speed on your account’s status before the next meeting.

“Change of pace”

Meaning:

To do something different from a normal routine.

In a sentence:

Having lunch in the park is a nice change of pace from the cafeteria.

“Think outside the box”

Meaning:

To go beyond a normal idea.

In a sentence:

In order to approach the idea differently, we need to think outside the box.

“Stay on your toes”

Meaning:

To stay alert.

In a sentence:

We will need you to respond quickly, so stay on your toes.

“In the dark”

Meaning:

To be uninformed.

In a sentence:

The acquisition is a sensitive subject, so we are going to keep some people in the dark.

“Learning curve”

Meaning:

The rate of gaining experience or new skills.

In a sentence:

When members first join the team, there is a steep learning curve.

“In the red”

Meaning:

To be in debt.

In a sentence:

We are in the red this month due to overspending.

“Ballpark figure”

Meaning:

A rough estimate.

In a sentence:

Can you give me a ballpark figure of the costs to inform this scope?

“Learn the ropes”

Meaning:

Learning the basics of how something is done.

In a sentence:

Now that Paul has learned the ropes, he is ready to take on more responsibility.

“Bring to the table”

Meaning:

Bring forth something of use or benefit.

In a sentence:

We need to bring our best concepts to the table for this proposal.

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